Lumbar radiculopathy is when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are pinched or damaged. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back to the feet.
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It is caused by problems that cause swelling or pinching of a spinal nerve, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Birth defects in the spine
- Hard physical activities, such as heavy lifting
- Being overweight
- Prior spinal surgery
Problems may be:
- Muscle spasms
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the lower spine.
Electromyography (EMG) may be done to check the electrical activity of the muscles.
Images may be taken of the spine. This can be done with:
Most people feel better when the cause of the symptoms improves. Others may need to manage symptoms. This can be done with:
Corsets and back braces can be used to support the spine and ease pain. Traction may also be used to pull spinal discs apart to ease pressure around pinched nerves.
Medicines used to treat this problem are:
- Over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Prescription pain relievers
- Muscle relaxers
- Corticosteroid injections into the spine to ease swelling
Some activities may need to be limited if they cause pain. Physical therapy can help improve balance, strength, and range of motion during this time.
Some people may need surgery when other methods do not help. The goal of surgery is to ease pain and pressure on the pinched nerve. This may be done with:
This problem cannot always be prevented. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight may help lower the risk.
American Chronic Pain Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Canadian Pain Society
Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-low-back-pain. Updated May 29, 2019. Accessed December 4, 2019.
Lumbar disk herniation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-disk-herniation. Updated September 23, 2019. Accessed December 4, 2019.
Lumbar radiculopathy. Advancing Neuromuscular, Musculoskeletal, and Electrodiagnostic Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aanem.org/Education/Patient-Resources/Disorders/Lumbar-Radiculopathy.aspx. Accessed December 4, 2019.
Lumbar radiculopathy. Spine Health website. Available at: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lumbar-radiculopathy. Updated April 25, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2019.
Lumbar spinal stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-spinal-stenosis. Updated August 22, 2019. Accessed December 4, 2019.
Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, et al. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Apr 4;166(7):514-530.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS Last Updated: 5/8/2020